Message From the Medical Officer of Health

 

Dr. Arra

 

Dr. Ian Arra

Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer

Grey Bruce Health Unit

 

Letter to the community  

Two years ago this week, the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Grey-Bruce and the government of Ontario declared a state of emergency, effectively marking the start of the pandemic both locally and provincially.

We’ve come so far over the course of the pandemic and are now at a point where nearly all public health measures have been lifted and municipal states of emergency have come to an end.

Through it all, residents, community partners and organizations, municipalities and businesses in Grey-Bruce demonstrated a commendable commitment to public health requirements and guidelines and did everything possible to help curb the virus’s spread, protect the most vulnerable from getting sick and keep everyone safe. The community’s positive response to our call for the critical threshold was one of the many examples of our collective commitment. Another example is the region’s success in leading the way with a paradigm-changing vaccine distribution process that is being studied and used as a benchmark across the country.

We practiced the three Ws – washing our hands, watching our distance and wearing a mask. We respected gathering limits, postponed events, stayed home and worked from our residences, when required.

We got tested for COVID-19 and, most importantly, got vaccinated against the virus.

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to everyone in Grey-Bruce for these incredible efforts.

Thank you to the front-line health care workers and first responders who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Thank you to the teachers and students who pivoted several times during the pandemic from classroom to remote learning.

Thank you to the local political leaders –municipal and provincial –and their staff who enacted emergency orders and put in place other measures to protect their residents. Thank you to the media and community partners for helping public health to communicate our directives, guidelines and advice to the broader Grey-Bruce community. Information accuracy and timeliness, a function of credible media, has been indispensable to ensure individuals make informed decisions to protect themselves, their families, and the community at large.

Thank you to the long-term care residents and other vulnerable people who had to be isolated and away from their loved ones for prolonged periods of time, including special occasions, to help prevent the virus’ spread.

Thank you to the businesses and organizations who followed public health guidelines throughout the pandemic.

Thank you to the professional, hard-working Grey Bruce Health Unit team, which collaborated to deliver a second-to-none public health emergency response. We have been able to contain cases and deaths to an extremely limited number relative to other jurisdictions, and taken steps to protect our most vulnerable populations.

Our Board of Health has played a leading role in the public health response and I am grateful for their leadership and support during this difficult time.

Thank you to all the stakeholders and groups that are not listed here.

We are at this relatively positive point in the pandemic because of the sacrifices everyone made and the measures you took to safeguard not only yourselves and your families but your communities as well.

Yours very truly,

Ian

Dr. Ian Arra, MD MSc FRCPC ACPM ABPM,

Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer,

Grey Bruce Health Unit.

To connect with the medical officer of health, please contact:

Denis Langlois, communications co-ordinator,

Grey Bruce Health Unit 519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 ext. 1315 Communications@publichealthgreybruce.on.ca

 

March 17, 2022

Archived MOH Messages

26

Message from MOH – Advising against COVID-19 testing with no symptoms or reason

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Message from MOH – Advising against COVID-19 testing with no symptoms or reason

As a father of one, I understand everyone’s concerns about having children go back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.  I want to let you know that we have been actively engaged with Public and Catholic School Boards, and the private and rural schools throughout Grey and Bruce.  For the most up to date information, please visit our website or contact your school to see their plans.

Feeling anxious, you may want to take your child or children to get tested for COVID-19, just to be sure they do not have it.  I want to explain to all parents that if there are no symptoms, and no close link to a confirmed case (as decided by local public health) then there is no practical benefit to getting your children tested.  There is, however, potential harm.  Let me explain.

  1. Testing for COVID-19 can be a difficult event for some children. Like any other clinical test, there is the potential for complications, one of which is potential long-term anxiety that could negatively affect a child’s mental health.  

 

  1. False reassurance is another harm.  Testing someone who has no symptoms only lets them know that on the day they were tested, they were not shedding the virus.  It is very possible to test negative one day (while incubating the virus), and then develop symptoms and test positive in a day or so.  It is not a bulletproof way to say that you or your child is COVID-19 free.

 

  1. Testing in people that have no symptoms can result in false positives.  A false positive may cause significant and unintended anxiety in families linked to the false positive.  Self-isolation, inability to attend work, and fear/anxiety are real outcomes of a false positive.  Imagine getting a call from Public Health letting you know that you and your family have been exposed to COVID-19, when in fact you were not?  Now imagine that this happens to a number of families as their children attend the same class or school.  This is not acceptable in my mind, and could cause significant harm. To that end, as the Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health, it is important to share that there are no practical benefits of mass testing of asymptomatic individuals and that potential harms are paramount.  I made an oath based on the first principle in practicing medicine - the principle of “Do no harm”.

 

  1. Testing people with no symptoms puts undue pressure on provincial testing capacity and delays the results for people that actually do have symptoms.  Delays in receiving results can pose significant risk to facilities that may be battling true outbreaks.

Getting a COVID-19 test would be appropriate and strongly recommended only in the following two scenarios:

  1. Public Health has let you know that you are a Close Contact to someone who has COVID-19, based on a thorough risk assessment completed only by Public Health. Deciding who is a close contact is a decision that can only be made by Public Health. This decision cannot be made by your health care provider or school official(s).
  2. Your health care provider has told you to get tested because you have COVID-19 related symptoms.

If neither of these situations exists, testing would NOT be suggested, and in fact, Public Health strongly recommends against it.

If there is a case in your child’s school or class, that, in and of itself is not a reason to get tested.  If there is potential that you were a close contact to a person with COVID-19, Public Health will call and advise you.  If you do not get a call from Public Health, you DO NOT need to get tested.  I fully appreciate that if you find out there was a case in your child’s school, your anxiety may be elevated.  Rest assured that we will notify you if you or your child need testing, and will do everything in our power to keep the children and staff in that school safe.

We work together with school officials before and during the school year to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of both the children and staff in the schools remain our priority and that everything we do reflects that objective.

I would never have my child tested without proper cause. As a parent and Medical Officer of Health, I would only consent to testing if my child had symptoms and had been assessed by their health care practitioner, or was considered a Close Contact and directed by Public Health to do so.

I remain,

Yours very truly,

 

A father and MOH, Dr. Ian Arra

 

February 26, 2021

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